SCOTLAND’s External Affairs Secretary was forced to “correct” a BBC journalist amid a claim that the UK Government had never previously issued rules intended to curtail ministers’ work overseas.

This comes after Angus Robertson wrote to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly calling on him to withdraw guidance on how UK diplomats should handle Holyrood ministers’ foreign visits and discussions.

They stated that all ambassadors must “gather information” on news of Scottish ministers’ trips and that all Scottish Government communication with foreign countries must go through the UK.

The correction

Good Morning Scotland’s host Laura Maxwell put it to Robertson that this kind of guidance had never been issued before when Fiona Hyslop and Michael Russell served in his current role.  

She said: “It (the UK Government) hasn’t done so (issued guidance) before so Fiona Hyslop and Mike Russell held external affairs roles before and it didn’t issue these guidelines for them.

“It seems very much that it seems to be an issue with your discussions with foreign nations that are the issue.”

Robertson quickly replied to say he was going to have to “correct” the presenter on her claim, explaining that Lord Frost, while in government, issued “missives” which sought to “limit the role of devolved ministers”.

Foreign trips

Maxwell then put it to Robertson that the guidance has not limited his ability to make trips and pointed out that he has been dubbed “air-miles Angus” by members of the opposition.

She suggested that some people might question whether foreign trips were a good use of public money given that UK embassies also “represent Scotland”.

Robertson replied: “At the heart of my responsibility in Government is promoting Scotland internationally and I make absolutely no apologies to seek to win trade, inward investment, jobs, educational co-operation and having good bilateral and regional relations.

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“That’s what grown-up countries do. That’s what the Scottish Government does.

"Reducing this to name-calling I think shows how thin-skinned the UK Government and the Conservative Party in particular are and all these things because we do this effectively.

“And anything that is likely to undermine our ability to quite legitimately pursue its external relations, promote their economy, their jobs, their tourism is entirely counterproductive.

“To be honest what this is all about is a Scotland Office that has next to nothing to actually do positively seeking to stick its oar in the devolved settlement as they’re doing across a whole series of powers.”

Asked what his trips achieve, Robertson said: “If this didn’t matter to other countries, they wouldn’t be keen to meet us as we are keen to meet them.

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“This is what other countries, this is what other devolved nations do. This is part and parcel of 21st-century diplomatic relations.”

He added he would “not stop promoting Scotland internationally” but that he was appealing to the Foreign Secretary to scrap his guidance.